Peta Houghton

A Casual Spirit

October 11 - October 25 2014

When Peta Houghton's husband was transferred from the Gold Coast to Macau for a period of two years, she and her two young daughters packed bags and accompanied him - along with their cat and three dogs!
Jutting out into the South China Sea and an hour from Hong Kong by high-speed ferry, the Macau is a place of dramatic contrasts. Remnants of Portuguese colonisation, the Mediterranean-style fortresses, churches and sprawling mansions loom alongside Chinese, incense-scented temples and shrines. Macau is also known as the Vegas of the East, it is the only area in China where gambling is legal. Houghton's current body of work documents her experiences and responses to a very different cultural milieu.
"Transient and thrust into unfamiliar environments without definite intention, forever irregular and occasional, the internal journey describes a deep need for a sense of place. The notion of holding opposite strengths simultaneously, where the linking of nothing and everything procures the same meaning, has brought to mind ideas of translucent rainbows. Since my relocation to Macau, this concept has never rung so true.
My immediate environment and experiences imbue the imagery in the new works. A two-minute stroll down the road finds me in a small, seaside Chinese village. It predates Macau's Portuguese colonisation and is overlooked by a huge, butter-yellow Catholic church and a row of mint green colonial mansions. A further walk and I am amidst casinos that promise all the wealth and grandeur they can possibly muster. Pondering such anomalies, I have been endeavouring to combine elements that are purely visual with fragments of my own story and interior journey.
Here we are referred to as gwello, a Cantonese slang term that roughly translates as ‘ghost man', meaning although we live among these Chinese people, we will never be integrated into their culture or society. This idea, along with the death of my childhood cat, has promoted the appearance of ‘ghost cats' within recent works. They refer not only to a sense of displacement but also to a further loss of the ‘girl inside the woman'.
Enveloped in thought, my woman/girl resides in imagined landscapes with her cat comforting, or perhaps haunting her. It is a reality that is simultaneously both everything and nothing. Utilising the visual stimulation of the silhouetted shapes and dappled shadows I encounter, the threads of unknown stories are realized in translucent rainbows."

Peta Houghton, August 2014

Peta Houghton holds a Bachelor of Fine Art, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane, Major in Painting and Elective Majors in Drawing and Art Theory. She achieved an Academic Excellence Award, Queensland College of Art 2009, 2008 and was a Finalist in the Border Art Prize, Tweed River Regional Gallery, NSW 2010; Highly Commended, Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society, Young Arts Award in Painting 2009; Highly Commended, Energies Exhibition, Gold Coast Art Gallery, Gold Coast Arts Centre 1995. Her work is represented in the Mater Hospital Collection, Brisbane and private collections in Australia and Beijing.

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